‘Sky Observer’s Guide’ fuses art , music
December 13, 2006
Aspen , CO ColoradoASPEN Amy Adler has often seen her drawings as something beyond two-dimensional. Looking at her work, she could imagine narratives and the development of full-flesh characters. “I’ve often thought of my work as an animated film, and the still images could potentially be an isolated fragment from a larger story,” said Adler, a 40-year-old Angeleno.Adler’s latest series, “The Sky Observer’s Guide,” conveys not only a sense of story, but also a soundtrack as well. Adler made the series in collaboration with Amy Cook, a Texas-based singer-songwriter whom Adler knew through mutual friends.Several years ago, Adler had worked with Joni Mitchell to create the exhibition “Amy Adler Curates Joni Mitchell.” That collaboration was relatively simple: Mitchell, an accomplished painter as well as a one-of-a-kind singer and songwriter, gave Adler access to her catalogue of paintings; Adler chose 16 pieces to show at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.
“I was just interested in seeing what would happen with her paintings outside of her voice,” Adler said. “It left me curious about the idea – a two-dimensional piece having an audio counterpart.””The Sky Observer’s Guide” is an in-depth integration of music and visual art. The project began with Adler making photographs of Cook. The two then began a correspondence, swapping the stories of their lives, their childhood. From these narratives, Cook began writing songs, Adler started drawing, and the two exchanged until the music and visual art informed each other.The result is a series of drawings and a CD, both titled “The Sky Observer’s Guide.” The drawings feature Cook, often with guitar in hand; the CD packaging prominently includes Adler’s drawings. Also in on the collaboration is Aspen Art Museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, who wrote the liner notes for the CD.An appropriately multimedia event will introduce “The Sky Observer’s Guide,” tonight at the Aspen Art Museum. There will be an opening reception at 6 p.m. for Adler’s series of five drawings; at 6:45, Cook will debut her CD with a solo performance.
In the process of Adler making her drawings and Cook recording her music, the two started to see one another’s sensibilities seeping into the work.”It was definitely like co-writing a record,” said the 31-year-old Cook. “Her thoughts, notes, even if they were a few words, were a spark, an inspiration. These songs would not have happened without Amy.” Cook marveled especially at how the songs, inspired by someone else’s thoughts, could come to seem so much a part of her. “I really wrote all of these songs from Amy’s stories, and then it quickly switched and became very personal. Which was strange, because I was trying to definitively make stories from Amy’s experiences. It’s probably the most personal record I’ve ever recorded, songs about my grandfather, my childhood.”
The exhibit also features works from another recent series of Adler’s, “The Rainbow Hour.” Like “The Sky Observer’s Guide,” “The Rainbow Hour” takes art out of the frame, and out of the museum; the images were turned into a children’s book featuring a story by Jacobson. The drawings – color-saturated chalk works of Adler’s young niece in quintessentially childlike poses – reflect the artist’s interest in the theme of innocence.”I think a lot about that moment when people stop drawing. Why does the average person stop drawing at 12?” Adler said. “It’s like a loss of virginity, really. In adolescent drawings, it’s about fantasy and love and teen idols. I think about that moment a lot in terms of my subjects.”In Cook, who operates outside the walls of the music business, Adler found another subject through which to explore the theme.”I’ve worked with people really famous and really unknown,” Adler said. “With Amy, there’s so much talent and potential and promise. It really is an innocence, a really pure excitement.”Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org